Hooves: The Decline of Western Civilization, Part IV
It wasn't supposed to happen like this. They practiced, they planned, they were ambitious and optimistic. Then, like so many rock musicians before them, excessive use of alcohol took it all away.
Before they knew it, Hooves had embarrassed themselves at probably the biggest annual event in the Phoenix rock scene, the Phoenix Independents Bowl. A legend was born: Hooves bowled a 100-point game (collectively), tossing multiple balls at once, treating Sunset Bowl's manger like a human bowling pin, and getting banned from ever entering the establishment again after trying to steal the event's trophies.
"Well, this is what I remember . . ." laughs Andrew Krissberg, frontman and songwriter, launching into the now-infamous tale. "We didn't mean for it to get out of hand."
Krissberg swears the band's drunken breakdown on the lanes wasn't some punk rock bullshit designed to burnish the band's reputation at a bowling tournament pitting against each other teams made up of notable Phoenix tastemakers, movers, shakers, and scenesters. Still, there was drummer Chris, "blackout drunk" before the guys even arrived to bowl as part of the 513 Analog Studios team.
"None of that was supposed to happen," Krissberg sighs. "I actually practiced; I spent three or four nights before [the event] going to the bowling alley after work. I was getting good."
Krissberg's low-slung demeanor and quiet, thoughtful phrasing make it hard to believe him capable of such classically styled rock 'n' roll debauchery, but Hooves' new EP, Greater Aspirations, Lower Expectations, further illustrates the fine line that Krissberg and the band toe between witty, literate songwriting and barely contained chaos. Informed by the rootsy swagger of The Band, the anthemic strut of early Springsteen albums, and the wry pop of Harry Nilsson, the band recorded at the 513 Studios, where they cut the album to analog tape with producer Mike Hissong, joined by Valley mainstays Robin Vining, who plays the blistering organ solo on opener "Roughness" and Sunorus' horn section on "Giggles."
The results are four loud, loose songs, far removed from the local indie scene where the band is often uncomfortably positioned. "We don't fit in at a place like Trunk Space; we're not part of that scene," Krissberg states. "They are good people, but musically, we don't fit in with what they're doing. Like it or not, we fit in better [next door] at the Bikini [Lounge], where Shane [Kennedy, who DJs at the bar and offered song suggestions to the band in the studio] is spinning rock 'n' roll stuff and the 'hip' kids have to listen to that."
Which raises the question, in 2010, as rock writers and bloggers seem dead set on describing every possible subgenre with impossibly shallow modifiers like "chillwave," "shitgaze" and "blisscore," what can a "rock 'n' roll band" possibly offer? Furthermore, after over 60 years of mutation and abuse, what does rock 'n' roll even mean?
"I figure that it's having a good time," Krissberg posits. "I'm not trying to sound like a bro, and that probably sounded really bro-ish, but that's what it's about. There's all this bad shit going on, and no one wants to work or argue about shit. When we play, people dance, not like Scottsdale club dancing, but these downtown kids just cutting loose and having a good time. It's really cool to play music for them and tell they're enjoying themselves. That's why I like doing this and that's why I like playing. That's rock 'n' roll."
To that end, the band aims to make each show a reflection of that "good time" spirit. "We have drum solos," Krissberg, says, nodding to Lamb. "We pour pitchers of beer down his throat when he plays drums solos, because it's fun."
"He fucking stunned me with a stun gun," Lamb says, one-upping Krissberg. Sheepishly Krissberg divulges the story: In an effort to bring people out to a gig at the now-defunct Ruby Room, Krissberg mass-texted his friends, saying he was going to Tase Lamb during a song. "I was totally joking, I never intended to do it," Krissberg states.
But as the Lamb started into a drum solo, Krissberg decided it might be fun to give the crowd what he had jokingly promised. "He shocked me, like, 12 times," Lamb says. "Finally, I shouted that if he did it again, I was going to hit him with a drumstick."
"If we're up there, super-tight and nervous, that's what will stick with [a crowd]," Lamb suggests. "Rock 'n' roll does require a little confidence," Krissberg adds. "Like dancing — if you're self-conscious, you're not gonna want to do it. We have fun, we knock each other's shit over, we slam into each other. It's not total bonehead, but it's on the cusp of that."
The band's "bonehead" live shows have always been their focus. Their early career found them playing out two to three times a week, often at art gallery Holgas. "We played the shit out of that place," Krissberg says. It was there that trumpet player Parker Morden connected with the band.
"He lived there," Krissberg says. "So he heard us a lot."
One night at the Modified, he unexpectedly showed up onstage and played along with the band's set."
With the core of the band comprising Krissberg on guitar and vocals, Lamb on drums, and bassist Stephen Chevalier (who played a borrowed left-handed bass upside down for many of the band's early shows), the trio is often joined by Morden, keyboardist Jason Mollenbrock, and guitarist Christian Reeb. "Christian plays the solos, mostly," Krissberg clarifies, "And Jason co-wrote a song that will be on the upcoming album. It sounds like Supertramp — you'll be able to tell which song it is."
"Christian's first show was the first time he'd ever played with us," Lamb states. "Andy told him, just solo like 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' over this whole song, and he did. That's when I knew he was awesome."
The band's ragged stage show has earned them support slots on some big-name shows, recently opening for the much-hyped Japandroids and Titus Andronicus. The band plan on spending June touring the West Coast, where they have 12 dates lined up.
August should see the release of their debut full-length "exclusively on vinyl," another area where the band are analog purists. "I don't really see the point in them [CDs] with [computers] and vinyl. Vinyl is just so much cooler. You can listen to a record from 40 years ago; you don't listen to a CD from [even] 20 years ago."
Perhaps afraid of sounding too stuck in an era that was over before he was born, Krissberg says that the album will come with a download card. And he's been listening to newer music, too. Well, sort of.
"The only band I've really got into is The Walkmen. The Walkmen are just tops. And The Black Keys, but then again, they're just doing the blues. I think The Soft Pack are pretty good, and all the stuff on In the Red records." In short, bands that don't necessarily sound like "new" bands. Bands with a firm grasp on rock history.
"[Hooves has] been called 'dad rock' before," he grins, sheepishly. "Which is kind of embarrassing, but that's what I listen to — I really like Bruce Springsteen, The Band, and Harry Nilsson. Sure, it's stuff that your parents love, but it's just honest music."
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